Development of techniques for the restoration of temperate biogenic reefs
Cook, Robert L.
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Biogenic reefs are of ecological importance due to the high levels of biodiversity they support and the valuable ecosystem services they provide. These reefs have limited distributions, are vulnerable to anthropogenic damage and their natural recovery has been estimated to be very slow. This project therefore aimed to develop restoration techniques that accelerate the natural recovery of biogenic reefs created by Serpula vermicularis (L.) (Polychaeta: Serpulidae), Limaria hians (G.) (Mollusca: Limacea) and Modiolus modiolus (L.) (Mollusca: Bivalvia) all three of which are of conservation importance in the North-East Atlantic. This aim was achieved through trials of novel restoration techniques to assess their potential for future larger scale restoration attempts. The addition of hard substrate proved a reliable restoration technique for all three of the study species. In particular, substrates providing structural complexity supported the highest abundance of recruits. Other restoration techniques, including stock enhancement and substrate stabilisation were found to be less effective. The timing for the deployment for these substrates was also shown to effect the abundance of S. vermicularis recruits, with materials deployed in July having 61 % more colonists than materials deployed in November. The location of deployed substrates within the Loch Creran, Scotland were also shown to create differences in S. vermicularis recruitment, with sites away from existing reefs having 72 % more recruits than sites within existing reef areas. Differences in the effectiveness of restoration treatments between sites was also observed for M. modiolus, with Loch Creran and Scapa Flow sites having on average 1.15 and 1.03 juveniles per restoration unit respectively, compared to 70 juveniles per unit at the site north of Lleyn Peninsula, Wales. The project also highlights taxonomic problems with the identification of juvenile M. modiolus, before providing a robust method validated using DNA barcoding techniques to differentiation M. modiolus from other juvenile bivalves. Whilst the project suggests that the successful restoration of these three biogenic reef-forming species is achievable, it also highlights that the first step in any restoration project must be the removal of pressures on that habitat. The substantial decline in the L. hians reef off Port Appin, Scotland from 40.5 hectares in 2006 to just 2.73 hectares in 2015 shows that without this first step any attempted restoration project would not succeed.